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(A description of what I'm doing is here.)
15879 / 38811 words. 41% done!
The club Miriam and Bret chose to occupy was, of course, La Musica Noche. Because that's the only club in town guaranteeing fresh music. So I joined them, hopeful that I would continue to embrace my newfound tattooed me-ness. And hopefully ignore Alec in the process. I got the impression that Miriam might be trying to hook me up with him, and the idea did not appeal to me in the slightest.
The club was hoppin'. Or at least, that's what I've heard people say about clubs, you know, in the movies and stuff. In actuality, it was a pretty low key night at La Musica. There was a local singer/songwriter strumming out some melancholy tunes on their guitar, crooning into the mike about how life never turns out how you expect or something. I could relate. So far, my tattoo hadn't made me as bold and empowered as I'd hoped.
We showed our IDs, got lovely black X's on our hands, and proceeded to the dance floor. I kind of wanted to get the dancing out of the way, but there was no way anyone could dance to this. It was too slow! So instead, I tried to take cues from Miriam and Bret. They, however, had planted themselves right in the middle of a group of people they knew already, and were talking amps and distortion pedals and stuff I had absolutely nothing to contribute to.
Which is when Alec showed up, waving awkwardly.
"Hey, Madeline. Remember me?"
I tried not to visibly cringe. "Yeah." I remembered the other challenge Colleen had given me, which involved trying to say at least one extra sentence after the time I'd normally clam up. So I added, "From the party."
Alec smiled. "Right!"
God, I wanted to shove that hair behind his ear. It was like a driving compulsion. What would new Madeline do? Would she actually shove that hair out of the way? Would Colleen do it? Would Miriam?
Fuck it. I couldn't take it. I leaned over and pushed the hair behind the ear.
Alec laughed. "Oh, sorry," he said. "Does it bother you?"
I wanted to scream, "YEESSSSSSSSS SWEET LORD IT BOTHERS ME," but instead, I just nodded. Oh, an extra sentence. "Yeah, a little." Good job, me.
"I guess I'm used to it this way. I just let it grow."
Respond. Respond. What do I have to say in response to this? "I let my hair grow, too." Insert forehead slap here. I can't even be cool around a guy who doesn't intimidate me the same way Wake does. How would I ever learn to talk to boys if I couldn't even handle this one? And anyway, I needed a fucking extra sentence. "I keep it long." Fail.
"Your hair looks nice," Alec said.
"Thank you. Very much."
Get out of here, I thought. There must be some way out of this conversation, and -
"Hey, listen, I have this thing on the weekends I do sometimes, where my friends meet up and spin poi?" Koi. "Maybe you could come one day and we could teach you some stuff?"
No. I have no desire to sling your fish around, sir. Is what I wanted to say. But I felt like that might be letting some portion of the tattoo down. Maybe slinging fish was actually cool. Maybe it would be something I could get behind. Perhaps I may even enjoy it. As long as I didn't have to talk to too many people. But then I'd be voluntarily subjecting myself to time with Alec. Who, really, I didn't feel like I was giving a fair enough shake. He wasn't that bad, now that his hair was out of the way.
"Um, maybe. When is it?"
"Saturdays and Sundays around three. We just stay in the park until it gets dark."
I nodded. "I know where the park is." Stupid comment number billionty two. "I'll try to make it." Or maybe I'd conveniently forget. We'll see how I feel on the weekend.
"Cool," Alec smiled. He looked like he wanted to say something else, but I took the opportunity presented by the lull in conversation.
"I have to bathroom. Go. To the bathroom. One of those." I gave him a weak wave and made my hasty escape.
There was no one barfing in the bathroom tonight, and I felt grateful. I didn't actually have to go, and now that I was in here, I felt pretty stupid, actually. I tried to regain some cool. How could I have responded in that conversation that would have made me look like far less of a nincompoop? I tried to think of better responses. Things I would have said if I'd been talking to Colleen or Miriam. But all I could see was Alec and that hair.
Then I began to worry if maybe the reason Wake never said more than two words to me was because he hated my hair. I'd always known that if I redid it, it might help! Or maybe I was just crazy. Actually, I felt pretty confident about the crazy thing.
Ugh, I should just get out of this bathroom. I'm trying to have this whole experience where I bust out of my shell or whatever. I noticed that perhaps I might be the biggest imposition to my own success. Which didn't feel too awesome. Had I been in here long enough to make it look like I actually took a piss? I checked my watch, which didn't really help any since I hadn't checked it when I went in to begin with. But it made me feel better, so I left.
Buck up, Webster, I said to myself. You can make it through this night with your sanity in tact. I glanced down at my tattoo, which stood out boldly against the rhinestone pump. It looked like the leg of a girl who knew who she was. Or at least knew that her name began with "M".
Someone to talk to that I'd never spoken with before...I glanced around, looking for someone who didn't seem intimidating. Unfortunately, the entire crowd looked pretty intimidating, as they were all dressed to the nines for a night out. They all looked strong and confident, and in no mood to have their night interrupted by me.
So I made my way back to Miriam and Bret, hoping I could work up some chutzpah talking to them, first.
"Alec invited me to spin koi this weekend," I said.
"I think you mean poi," Miriam corrected.
"Yeah. But it sounds like koi to me, so that's what I want to call it."
"Did you say yes? Are you going to go? Are you having fun?" I tried to think of answers that wouldn't disappoint her.
"I said maybe. And, so, I mean, maybe I'll go." I avoided the "having fun" question.
"Hey, come with me real quick." She wrapped her lace gloved hand around my wrist and dragged me to the side of the dance floor. Then, she put her glittery face right next to mine. "Listen," she whispered, "I have a favor to ask you. You see that girl over there?" She pointed. I nodded, because I did see the girl in question. She sat at the bar with her hands folded in her lap, looking a very much like the way I felt.
"That's Deana," Miriam continued. "She's here every week, but I never see her leave that bar. I feel so bad for her. Maybe you could go talk to her? Invite her to come hang with us? Or you guys could just chill together at the bar?"
That would certainly cover my "initiate a conversation" requirement. "Yeah, sure, no problem."
"Great! Thank you!" I started to head off, but she grabbed my arm again. "Oh! Hey, I forgot to tell you and Colleen, but Interrobang Widdershins has another gig Saturday night. Maybe you guys could try to come to this one?" I scanned her features for anger, but she only smiled, which meant she was over it, we were forgiven.
"Of course we'll be there. I'll tell Colleen."
I left on my mission to talk to Deana. I felt a lot better about this than the whole Alec thing. I sat myself down on the barstool next to her.
"Can I get you anything?" the bartender asked, glancing down at my hands and spying the underage X's.
"Shirley temple, please," I ordered confidently. I knew for sure that is the drink I wanted.
He nodded, and went off to fill my order.
I turned to Deana. All you have to say is, "Hi, my name is Madeline," I said to myself. That's not so tough, is it? Well, in theory, no. But now that I was here, actually sitting on this bench, next to this person I'd never said a word to, I felt self concious again. I'm not a conversation starter, it's just not a thing I do.
IT IS NOW, bellowed the tattoo. I glanced down at it again for support, right as the bartender placed my delicious cherry infused soda in front of me. "Oh! Thanks," I said, grabbing it and taking a big swig. As soon as I'd swallowed, I didn't give myself a chance to change my mind. I just leaned over to Deana and said, "Hi, my name is Madeline."
She jumped, a little startled. "Oh, hey," she shook my hand.
I had to keep this conversational train rolling. So I said the first thing that came to mind, which was, "Come here often?"
Great. Now she thought I was trying to pick her up.
She smiled the smile of a woman trapped in a conversation she'd very much like out of. I knew it well, for I had smiled it many times before. "Uh, I guess."
"I'm not trying to hit on you or anything," I clarified. "I'm just talking to you because my friend asked me to."
Deana dropped her head. Fuck. That was the wrong thing to say again.
"I mean, that's not what I mean. Okay, that is what I mean." Cue the rambling man. "I'm trying this thing where I'm more outgoing? Because normally I'm not very outgoing, normally I just sit in the corner and hide, a lot like you're doing right now, crap, I mean, anyway, hi, I'm Madeline, and I like to put my foot in my mouth." I raised my glass and took a hard sip.
"Deana. I like to keep my mouth shut so I avoid that very thing." She raised her own glass, and took her own swig.
I smiled. "Okay. Well, I think I'll, um, leave now, and cut my losses."
"Nice to have met you," she waved.
Conversations this evening: 0 for 2. All that remained was the dancing by myself like an idiot, and then I could go home. I wondered if Colleen would let all that pass as a successful evening. Maybe going out to a whole club was starting too strong. Maybe I needed to start with something smaller. Like Chinese Checkers.
There was nothing in the rule book that said I had to dance alone. I knew that the point of the exercise was to push me out of my comfort zone, but I'd had quite enough discomfort for one evening. So I found Miriam in her throng of beautiful people and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Miss Miriam, may I have this dance?"
She grinned at me. "Why, Maddy, it would be my honor." She took my hand and dragged me to the dancefloor, wrapping me up in a slow dance. I had a fleeting memory of when we were kids and we used to play dance together. My favorite part had been taking the tickets at the door, hers had been the dancing. It still felt comforting, like going back in time a little. If I could just have this dance with Miriam, it felt like the perfect ending to an otherwise spaztastic evening, and I could maybe leave with my dignity in tact. This became my new plan. And tomorrow I'd enact the Chinese Checkers thing. Seemed much safer.
And this all would have been the perfect plan and everything, except that's when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard Wake's voice ask, "May I cut in?"
** ** **
What. What. That was my hopeful ear listening. I know this because Wake Ellington does not ask me to dance. He must have been asking for Miriam.
"Uh, you'll have to check with Bret," I said.
He laughed. "No, I mean, is it cool if I dance with you? Tattoo girl?"
Tattoo girl. It sounded even sweeter than when he said "Madeline".
"Um, yes! Sure. I mean, is that okay with you, Miri?"
She grinned huge at me. "Duh." She grabbed my hand and spun me out away from her and into Wake's arms. Why couldn't I be that smooth?
And now here I was, totally confused and bewildered. Say something, I screamed at myself. But my mouth had managed to fuse itself closed.
"So I wanted to ask you about your ink," he said, his voice so warm and deep and gravelly and could I just make out with him? My god, he smelled good. What kind of cologne did he use? Something sexy, I bet.
Respond, Webster, respond! "What did you want to know?" Good. So far no spaz.
"Who did it? I mean, I know you're underage and all. Do you have a friend? Could I get their name?"
"Do you want a tattoo?" Stupid question number one. He'd told me he wanted a tattoo earlier that day.
"Yeah, I was thinking of getting a fox paw on my shoulder."
"A fox paw?" Repeating things he said seemed like a good method of attack.
"Yeah, it's kind of a personal thing."
My mind flew to Janell. I wonder if that was his pet name for her or something. Foxy. I couldn't blame him, I guess. All of a sudden, I didn't want him to have Lisa's information.
"Um, I don't know, I think I lost her card, but I'll look for it."
"Cool." And he let go of me. My heart sank with sadness. "Let me know." He flashed his smile at me and waved. "See you in school?"
I nodded, unable to come up with any more of those handy words. Ah yes, the repeating thing. "See you in school," I repeated.
And then he was gone.